7 Adwords mistakes that have cost me $25,000+ (you might be making one now)


In every business that I start nowadays, I always use Adwords & Facebook ads to advertise my product but the one I like more is AdWords.

Why you ask? Because I started advertising with Adwords even before Facebook open their door to advertisers and I’ve been an avid platform user for over 8 years now.

Despite all of this, I lost more than $25,000+ in some stupid mistakes that I shouldn’t make when starting out with Adwords.

The mistakes were not even some rocket science ones, they were simple but as always, the simple and easy looking ones are always going to be the ones that we overlook and cost us the most money in advertising.

So that’s why today I am inspired to share with you about the mistakes that I made with Adwords that cost me more than $25,000+ and hopefully you’ll learn from my mistakes and save yourself from money.

I hope that this blog post will be kind of a compass for you to reach your Adwords shortcut to success.

What you’ll learn from this blog post

  • Lessons that I learned during my experimenting time.
  • The mistakes that I made that cost me $25,000+ during my first couple of years of running Adwords ads.
  • The right ways to approach Adwords and what you can do to make yours successful

Now that we are on the same page, I am going to start with the first mistake that I made.

Mistake #1: Too lazy to neatly group keywords

Not grouping keywords in Adwords is one of the worst things I did because in any form of advertising, being specific and being able to target the right audience is the only way to be profitable.

Guess what happened when I didn’t group my keywords correctly? Yep, traffic got sent to the wrong landing pages, my CTR was bad, Quality Score went down and my conversion was low as hell.

It took me hours grouping keywords and I could see a phenomenal change in terms of CTR and ad cost as well.

I don’t know how much this mistake cost me but I am sure it’s made me less of a lazy slob and a bit of a better marketer, that’s for sure.

If you are new to Adwords and you are not familiar with what keyword groups are, let me explain to you a bit.

Keywords will be considered to be in the same group when the searchers have the same intent when searching for them.

Here’s an example, the keywords “second hand car”, “used car”, “buy rarely used car” are considered to be in the same keyword group because the searchers have the same intent, meaning they are interested in buying a used car, but keywords like “buy sports car”, “trucks for sale” are not considered to be in the same group because the searchers could be looking for a new car and have completely different intent.

Let’s have a look at the keywords below:

(Same keyword group)

As you can see, all of the keywords have the word “widget” in it and the variations of it are only the size and color of the widget so they can be considered to be in the same group.

Must remember: When grouping keywords, try not to get more than 20 keywords in a group, generally it would be too broad and your targeting could be way off. So be careful about the amount of keywords you group together.

Clear? Awesome! Now we can move on to the next painful Adwords mistake of mine.

Mistake #2: Realize the importance of negative keywords a bit late

When it comes to running Adwords ads, knowing what your negative keywords are is as important as finding the right keywords for your campaign.

I found that out the hard way because I simply didn’t understand the mechanics of Adwords, it took me a couple of months before I learned to find out what my negative keywords were and then created a negative keyword list to let Google know that they should never send any traffic from those keywords.

If you are not familiar with negative keywords, here’s how it looks like.

Negative keyword list

Let me explain to you real quick what negative keywords are.

Imagine you want to target an awesome keyword “healthy pills”, after running your campaign for awhile – you begin to notice that your ads start receiving a lot of traffic from super inappropriate keywords like ” enlargement healthy pills”, “penis enlargement pills” or whatever.

Now you panic, you don’t know what to do and you want to block those keywords from your campaign. Yep, the keywords you don’t want in your campaign and keywords that are detrimental to your conversion are considered “negative keywords”.

What you can do is to start adding “penis”, “enlargement” and whatever that are not appropriate for your campaign to your negative keyword list.

(Add negative keywords to your list)

In fact, you don’t have to worry about those adult keywords because normally Adwords disable adult keyword targeting by default, you can turn it on if you want to.

Must remember: Also check negative keywords in Google analytics because Adwords isn’t enough. You will find your negative keywords under “Query match type”, you should look for the ones that have low conversion rates and add those to your negative keyword list.

Don’t make the same mistake as I did when it come to negative keywords because it’s as important as knowing what keywords to target because it could cost you a ton of money before you realize what’s up.

So keep an eye out for the negative keywords, usually they are the ones that don’t convert.

Mistake #3: Didn’t bid on my own branded keywords

This only applies when you are already popular because there will be many competitors bidding on your own branded keywords.

(Bidding on branded keyword)

The reason this is important is because your would-be buyers might have heard about you somewhere and then type in your name in Google search bar to read more information about your company.

And guess what they see? Your competitor’s ads! And right then and there, there’s a chance you’d lose that prospective to your competitor.

This mistake didn’t happen to me directly, but to a client’s business, my client was a law firm located in New York and they are quite reputable because they are on the billboards all the time.

Their competitors started to bid on their branded keywords and they noticed a drop in amount of leads from their website and they hired me to investigate what was going on.

Sure enough, I found at least 4 competitors bidding on their keywords. The worst thing was that they only found out after months of lost leads, I would imagine that the lost in revenue opportunity would be astronomical.

So if you have a brand that is quite popular, you may want to start bidding on your own keywords and make sure that your ad position is #1 like Intercom.

(Intercom Adwords ad)

Must remember: your own branded keywords are usually the ones that convert the best and generally it’s quite cheap to bid on your own keywords.

So bidding on your own branded keywords doesn’t sound so bad, ah?

Mistake #4: Didn’t have a clue about customer lifetime value

In doing any kind of business, “know your numbers” always applies especially when it comes to advertising because in advertising, you need to do some math before you know if it’s worth it or not.

Knowing the lifetime value of my customers did make a great change to my overall campaign approach and performance.

The reason is that if I know exactly how much each customer is worth to me, I can figure out how much I am willing to pay to acquire them.

And certainly, not all of the customers are worth the same amount and we need to find a way to calculate it.

(Lifetime customer value)

What I like to do to calculate the “yearly” customer value of each customer is this. (I suck at math, you can correct me if I am wrong)

(Doing math now!)

I would multiply an average spending of the customers is with average my profit margin and with numbers of average purchases in a year = I’ll get my yearly customer value.

Or you can just have a look at this, I found it on Finnchat.


I recommend you to always know the numbers before advertising because you will be able to budget your campaign right and you wouldn’t have to run into so many headaches like I said.

Mistake #5: Neglected on doing competitor research

I understand that when you want to advertise, you just want to get your ads out there and profit $$$ but it’s not like that in the real world because you actually have competitors who would take a lot of fun crushing you.

I didn’t know this because I was too naive to realize the impact of strong competitors could do to my campaigns, I was a mess back then.

Now before I create a campaign, I put in more than 70% of the time doing a thorough research on the keywords + target audience + competitors.

I’ve learned my lesson and I know that by not putting in a lot of work in the research phase, I’d lose a ton of money and valuable time that I’d never get back.

Let’s have a look at what Amazon.com is doing with their PPC ads.

(Amazon PPC)

As you can see, if you are their competitor, you’d gain incredible insights on where they are now and what kind of landing pages they are using to achieve their results + the keywords that they are using.

All of that information can help you see a clearer path of beating them or at least be the guy they will have to look out for because you could take their place anytime.

Must remember: when you get all these incredible insights, do not just copy them because what works for them doesn’t mean it will work for you. Just use it as a guide, don’t copy.

Mistake #6: Failed to set the right expectation

When running ads, it’s easy to imagine all the success in the world and you just can’t wait to see the results of your campaign. What I did? Well, I kept refreshing the stats page and praying there’d be an endless stream of conversions coming my way.

My budget? $20 a day and my keywords were super competitive.

(Right in the balls)

That’s right, that was all I could afford and the result wasn’t that good because my budget didn’t allow me to reach the “endless stream of conversions” I hoped I’d get.

What I needed to do was as I adjusted my budget for the campaign – I needed to adjust my expectations of what I’d get from the campaign as well.

Being discouraged as hell and beating yourself up when running a campaign isn’t a good idea. I’ve been there and done that.

Must remember: you should run your campaign for awhile before you can decide the right amount of budget, it’s okay to go low first because that’s what I always do for my campaigns and clients’.

Mistake #7: Believing that position #1 was always the best

When you think about Google, people would always assume that number 1 position is the way to go, but in reality, it isn’t like that because prospects click on many ads before they decide which one is the best suited for their needs.

So being number 1 or number 2 or number 3 doesn’t really matter much in terms of conversion rates. What matters more is the ad copy and landing page.

(Being number #1 doesn’t matter much)

I made that mistake because I believed that being number 1 was the only way for me to achieve success in Adwords and I did that for awhile until one day I was outbid by a competitor.

At the time, I was trying to find away to get my number 1 position back but then I looked at the stats and I barely saw any difference in terms of conversions and my bids were actually cheaper, too.

So I let the ads run for a week or so, the results were the same but what changed was my ad cost became a lot cheaper when I didn’t have to battle for number #1 all the time. It became a race that I didn’t want to participate.

Being number 1 ad position doesn’t matter much, what matters at the end of the day is your conversion rates.

So don’t worry about your ad position as long as you are not on the 14th position, you are completely fine.

My conclusion

I think that learning from my mistakes has been the most valuable so far to me and the mistakes that I have made that have cost me over $25,000+ has turned out to be the best course I’ve attended.

I know that I will continue to make even more mistakes down the road and to be honest with you, I am excited about it because it means I’ll get to accelerate my improvement in digital media buying skills and I welcome more mistakes any day of the week.

I hope you’ve got value out of this blog post and apply it to your Adwords campaigns. No matter where you are on your Adwords journey, always keep learning. Never stop learning.

Good luck for today 🙂